In response to a sustained, high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Public Health Madison & Dane County issued emergency order #7 Wednesday to limit gatherings and business activities.

The new order will go into effect starting 8 a.m. July 2, according to PDMDC’s press release. While practicing social distancing, all indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 and 25 people respectively, excluding employees.

Bars and restaurants can provide outdoor seating with physical distancing in place. Indoor dining capacity at restaurants will be reduced to 25%, whereas bars may provide takeout but can no longer provide indoor dining options, according to the release.

PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich spoke about the new restrictions in the press release.

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“After consultation with our contact tracing team, gatherings and visits to bars and restaurants continue to be implicated in interviews with cases,” Heinrich said. “We are acting now to immediately curb this increase in cases and protect the health and safety of our community.”

According to the new order, gatherings at bars present greater risks for coronavirus to transmit both within and between groups. People often need to speak loud at bars, contributing to the further spread of infectious particles through the air. Additionally, consumption of alcohol impairs patrons’ judgement, which could then prevent them from identifying people they were in close contact with at bars or providing critical information for contact tracing.

From June 13 to June 26, Dane County saw an increase of 614 confirmed cases for COVID-19. Forty-nine percent of the cases were between the ages of 18 and 25, and 45% of those who were interviewed reported attending a gathering or party with people outside of their households, according to the release.

In addition, a total of 172 cases (28%) were associated with a cluster, with 132 cases from bars, 14 from workplaces, 11 from congregate facilities, 3 from preschools and 12 from other clusters. 

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said failure to practice social distancing contributed to the increase of cases. 

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“Our community is at a critical juncture in our fight against COVID-19,” Parisi said. “We need everyone to take this seriously and adhere to the guidelines and recommendations that are proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19, or we will face the very real possibility of having to resort to even stricter guidelines.”

Dane County moved to Phase 2 of reopening on June 15 after meeting criteria outlined in Forward Dane. The newly-updated metrics show two criteria, namely cases per day and community spread, have now become red, according to the PHMDC release

City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said both individuals and businesses need to take responsibility in slowing down the spread within the community. 

“We need individuals and businesses alike to take this public health threat seriously and know we are enforcing these rules,” Rhodes-Conway said. “To our younger population, I want to remind you that free testing is available at Alliant Energy Center. Make a plan and go get tested if you may have been exposed.”